Published in: Banks | Sept. 15, 2019

34% of Americans Cite This as Their Greatest Source of Relationship Stress

We are committed to full transparency as part of our mission to make the world smarter, happier, & richer. You should know that offers on The Ascent may be from our partners - it's how we make money. That transparency to you is core to our editorial integrity, which isn’t influenced by compensation.


It’s something we all have to grapple with.

Being in a relationship takes work. You need to put up with another person's quirks, imperfections, and bad moods, not to mention reconciling your own needs with somebody else's. 

The latter applies to finances as well. You need to sync up with your partner on all things money-related if you want your relationship to thrive. But doing so is easier said than done. In fact, in a recent study by The Ascent, 34% of respondents acknowledged that finances cause more stress in their relationships than any other factor.

Arguing Man and Woman

Image source: Getty Images

If you're going to be sharing expenses or merging finances with that important person in your life, you need to get on the same page to avoid conflict. Here are a few crucial moves to make in this regard.

1. Create a joint budget

Having a budget is a crucial part of keeping your spending in check and avoiding debt. And it's an important thing to do as a couple, especially when you consider that you and your partner may each have your own habits and priorities to bring to the mix. In fact, in the study referenced above, over 70% of respondents said that following a budget is a positive trait to look for in a romantic partner. 

To create your budget, list the recurring monthly expenses you and your partner incur. Then, factor in once-a-year expenses, and allocate their cost over 12 months. That should give you an average of what your bills look like on a monthly basis. 

From there, you can see how your spending compares to what you earn. If there's ample room left over for savings, you're in good shape, but if you're regularly maxing out your paychecks (or, worse yet, spending more than you earn), you'll need to make some changes jointly. 

By having a budget -- and going through the process of making that budget -- you'll help reduce the potential for hard feelings. If you can map out what bills you and your partner are responsible for together, and how much discretionary spending is acceptable on an individual basis, you will both know where you stand.

2. Have a joint emergency fund

Nothing strains a relationship like an unplanned expense that needs to be paid for right away. To avoid that stress, work with your partner to build a healthy level of savings. Ideally, your emergency fund should contain enough money to cover at least three months of essential living expenses, but if you're able to aim higher, you'll buy yourselves even more peace of mind. 

In the above-mentioned study, around 60% of respondents said they want a partner who has an emergency fund, so if you and your significant other are behind in this regard, you can work on building cash reserves together.

3. Map out your long-term financial goals

Money-related conflicts can arise in a relationship when you have one person focused on a specific goal, and another person focused on a different one. A better bet? Prioritize your goals together. Maybe you want to buy a home in the next five years, while your partner is more concerned with building a retirement nest egg. Both are reasonable, respectable goals, so the key is to sit down and devise a plan for meeting those objectives simultaneously.

In the aforementioned survey, nearly 71% of respondents said that setting financial goals is a desirable trait in a romantic partner. Therefore, don't be afraid to spearhead that conversation.

Money can put a huge strain on relationships -- but it doesn't have to damage yours. Be open with your partner and take the time to talk about finances. With any luck, you'll build a financially secure life together, all the while keeping money-related arguments to a minimum. 

Savings account rates are skyrocketing -- Earn 23x your bank

Many people are missing out on guaranteed returns as their money languishes in a big bank savings account earning next to no interest. Our picks of the best online savings accounts can earn you more than 25x the national average savings account rate. Click here to uncover the best-in-class picks that landed a spot on our shortlist of the best savings accounts for 2019.